Monsieur Salut writes: we had to bounce back from Wembley and we did, in some style as you’ll know if you were there or have read Pete Sixmsith’s rousing account of our 3-0 win.
Now another Lancashire test awaits. We need to do something similar at Rochdale on Saturday. Over to Ian Wright*, our Dale stalwart, with answers to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions. Even before the win at Stanley, he reckoned we should have enough quality to overcome any post-Wembley doldrums….
A good little run and suddenly you have a chance climb out of danger. What has started going right and will you do it?
Ian Wright: don’t think the change of manager and sudden improvement are a coincidence, players playing in their preferred positions and an emphasis on not conceding loads of goals per game, looks to have paid dividends. It will go to the wire again, but yes I think we’ll do it.
Your pal John Beckett, our interviewee for the first game, described you chairman Chris Dunphy and manager Keith Hill as the best things to happen to the club. Your view, especially after Hill’s sacking last month?
Yes I’d agree with that. Hill is the most successful manager in our history, and it’s all been done under the stewardship of CD, all within our means, which with our historically low crowds is a massive achievement. However all good things must come to an end, and a new chapter of Dale history is upon us.
Who has been doing the business and will present a threat to Sunderland?
Without doubt Ian Henderson has been our main man again. He’s now in serious contention of becoming the club’s leading scorer of all time. Terrific athlete for his age and seems to cover every blade of grass.
Also for me, Ollie Rathbone has been very consistent, however his season has been hampered with a few injuries. Does pop up with the occasional goal as well.
And will you benefit from any Wembley hangover we may have suffered?
Possibly, but that would be an easy excuse for you if the result doesn’t go your way, and your squad should be too good to let the Wembley result affect them.
Your own highs and lows as a Rochdale supporter?
My highs are the promotions in 2010 and 2014, beating Darlington on penalties in 07/08 season play off semi, to reach Wembley for the first time in our history.
The lows that stick in my mind are our first time at Wembley, fantastic achievement to get there, but for me it was a horrible day. The weather was dreadful, the seats were in the top tier, and we got beat 3-2 by Stockport, I just didn’t enjoy anything about that day. Another low was getting beat 3-2 at Spotland against FC United in the first round of the FA Cup in 2010 which was also broadcast live on the TV.
So close to the football elite and so far away. Tell us about supporting Rochdale.
It’s definitely a labour of love supporting the Dale. You can get a lot of flak, especially from the armchair mob of City and United fans who watch their teams in the pub on the box, but it’s great to hold your head up high, and have a bit of pride supporting your home town club.
Any thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, Jack Ross, our sharp decline?
It was my first ever visit to Sunderland earlier this season, and obviously apart from the result I enjoyed the day. The pre-match fan zone was great, superb stadium and the fans were extremely friendly as well.
I do find it amazing that clubs the size of Sunderland, with their fan base, drop into the bottom two divisions, but no one has a divine right to be where the size of a club should probably merit. But I dare say a club of your calibre will find its way back to the Prem in the not too distant future.
Hand on heart, where will our clubs finish?
You will easily make at least the play offs, probably in your current (4th) I reckon. I think we’ll just beat the drop and finish 20th.
Cheating: what would you do about it that isn’t already being done?
Retrospective bans. For instance if you get caught diving, introduce say, a five match ban for the player caught. If a rule was brought in where if you’re caught diving and receive a ban, the clubs could refuse to pay the player, that might make them think before they cheat.
Will you be there, what will be the score?
Yes. Me, my wife and son who are all season ticket holders will be sat in the main stand and I think it will be a 1-1 draw.
* Ian Wright on himself: I am 55, a parts delivery driver for Steadplan in Rochdale. I’ve been a Dale fan for about 45 years, and I’m also a board member of the Rochdale Supporter’ Trust.
Interview: Colin Randall